We need more restaurant managers like Jeremy Draper of Outback Steakhouse

Management Makes a Positive Difference

I came across a nice article from examiner.com (which, as an aside, I’ve found to have many positive articles about food allergies) entitled, “Management that makes a positive difference – starfish award.” Now, I confess that I have no idea what the “starfish award” is, but I found the content of the article inspiring enough to share here.

The article is about how an Outback Steakhouse manager, named Jeremy Draper, went above and beyond for a food allergic patron.

The diner, a woman, “could not eat margarine, could not eat the kind of bread served, couldn’t have certain spices, and could only eat specific vegetables.”

These are obviously not the more common food allergens and would likely pose a greater challenge even to those restaurants who train their employees to accommodate diners with food allergies. I say that with the memory fresh in my mind of bringing my son to a restaurant (name withheld “to protect the innocent”… though the experience has been shared via the AllergyEats database) where the waiter was clearly not comfortable dealing with food allergies, though the restaurant at least had an “allergy book.”

The book was organized by allergy. It showed the menu items that were safe for individuals with each specific “major” allergy. Of course, I had to cross reference my son’s multiple allergies, but at least I could order him an adequate (and that’s being generous) meal. How much more difficult would it have been for this woman, given the lack of a list for her food allergies? My point being that this restaurant probably considered itself allergy-friendly for having a book, but sometimes you need more than just a book (though I would never discourage having such a book).

And that’s where Jeremy Draper comes in.

“With a smile on his face and a positive voice, Jeremy worked with the patron to meet her needs. Going beyond the requests she was making, he offered several suggestions. He made sure that every possible accommodation was made. He worked with the server as a team member – not taking over, yet not just being a passerby.

“That was not the end. He came back several times to make sure everything was as close as possible to meeting the lady’s needs. Overall, this manager showed more than money concerns; he showed a willingness to do whatever he could to be of service.

“The woman has returned several times. Although there are hundreds of customers that eat at the Outback at that location [near the Karcher Mall in Idaho], Jeremy recognizes the lady, and is always willing to help.

“Jeremy’s kind of action is a worthwhile focus. It is good for people. It is good for business.”

Well, I guess he’s certainly deserving of a starfish award! (OK, could somebody fill me in on what that is?)

In all seriousness, this is a great article demonstrating that being more than just “allergy-accommodating,” but “allergy-friendly” serves as a win-win for a patron and a restaurant. The patron can enjoy a restaurant meal and feel more comfortable returning to that restaurant, while the restaurant gains the loyalty of that patron (and however many other people he or she brings), helping their bottom line profits. Further, the manager is also likely rewarded if the diner does the right thing and notifies the owner of his or her wonderful treatment.

My family had a similar situation with a Famous Dave’s Barbeque Restaurant in our area until it unfortunately closed (a very disappointing day for my food-allergic children as well as for my BBQ-lovin’ taste buds). The hostess was always so accommodating that we often went back (especially when family was in town… meaning sometimes over a dozen patrons!) and she eventually came to know us and our situation when we walked through the door. That was so comforting. Famous Dave’s earned our loyalty and our dollars (though I guess we would’ve had to spend more to keep them open).

Thoughts? Comments? Do you get this same kind of accommodation and courtesy at your favorite restaurant? Any restaurants or managers in your local area that you’d like to publicly praise? [We’re also sending the franchise owner a copy of this blog entry.] If so, click on Leave a Reply below and share your voice.

And as always, please share your views and experiences (whether positive or negative) on the main AllergyEats site (www.allergyeats.com). AllergyEats continues to see its ratings base grow, thereby increasing its value to our food allergy and intolerance community. However, we still have a long, long way to go after only 3 months. Please help be part of the solution for all of us by rating your experiences.



    Here’s the story of “the starfish”…I imagine that’s what the Starfish Award is referring to! A small change makes a big difference, even if its just to one person!

    The Starfish
    An old man was walking down the beach just before dawn. In the distance he saw a young man picking up stranded starfish and throwing them back into the sea. As the old man approached the young man, he asked; “Why do you spend so much energy doing what seems to be a waste of time?” The young man explained that the stranded starfish would die if left in the morning sun. “But there must be thousands of beaches and millions of starfish, exclaimed the old man. “How can your efforts make any difference?” The young man looked down at the small starfish in his hand and as he threw it to safety in the sea, he said; “It makes a difference to this one!”


    Thanks Melody!


    I have two of my favorite restaurants that take allergies into serious consideration: Magiano’s and PF Changs. Both are about 2 hours away from where I live, but whenever my family wants good food, we travel to St. Louis. PF Changs had been my favorite for a while. But the last time I went, they had a gluten free menu, and the manager even came up and made sure none of the food had my allergies in it. My dish came with oyster sauce, and since I can’t have fish or most shellfish, the manager had that taken off the dish. They prepared it in a seperate area, with sterilized utensils, and even put it in a seperate dish than the rest of my party’s food. When my family was eating an appetizer I couldn’t have, the manager offered me something I could have to hold me over until my meal.

    At Magianos, they have a gluten free menu, and the chef even comes up to the table to find out any additional allergies one would have. They prepare the food in a seperate location, with sterilized utensils, and bring the food out on a seperate tray. When there are so many requests for something, they add it to their menu.

    I love both these restaurants. The food is great, and they go out of their way to make the experience wonderful for patrons with food allergies. I’ve been to too many restaurants who don’t cater to food allergies, and do not frequent those places as much as the two above.


    That’s awesome. I will have to check out the outback near us. We recently had a great experience at two restaurants. Rainforest Cafe in Atlantic City, NJ and TGIFridays in Princeton, NJ. The food wasn’t great but the chef was very accomodating. The food at TGIFridays was better and the manager took a lot more effort to ensure safety for our son. He even said that if he had more notice, he could come up with other choices. My son has allergies to eggs, milk, beef, lamb, garlic, mustard, nuts and shellfish. We will certainly be back to those restaurants.


    Wow Heather. These two restaurants must be particularly amazing for you to make a 2-hour drive (with kids in the car!?!?). As an aside, I don’t know the last time you went to P.F. Chang’s, but they expanded their gluten-free menu about two months ago. So, as Ming Tsai says, “Happy Eating!”

    Lien, it’s nice to hear the manager say that he could’ve done more with advanced notice. A lot of food allergy experts suggest calling the restaurant in advance to let them know you have a food allergic child coming (my opinion is “why not?”). Some restaurant personnel suggest this as well. I guess this is a great example of how you can get not only more comfortable with the restaurant’s ability to accommodate you by calling in advance, but a greater array of menu choices as well. Please let us know if they do in fact have more choices for you in the future (assuming you do call in advance).

    Thank you both for great comments!

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